Sunday, 26 May 2013

Cobblestones and kookaburras

Greetings from Florence! The days are getting longer but as yet not exactly hotter. In fact today it is a wet and stormy 15 degrees. (Although I will admit it was a rather warm day when this photo was taken of me and Inga in Greve in Chianti). Non-the-less if the summer weather doesn't fully assert itself soon I'll be enveloped in a seemingly perpetual winter, since I'm returning to the southern hemisphere for good in just over 4 weeks time (four weeks! must be time to start counting the sleeps)...

What have I been up to since my last post?? Well, last term I struggled somewhat to keep up with everything and progressively saw myself falling behind at school. This term I dropped back to part time while I tried to sort out some health problems, which seem to have finally come into the light just of last week (anemia caused by endometriosis)... So it's been perfect going to school just for painting in the mornings with the afternoons off and I also joined the first years to continue on with still life which I'm enjoying immensely. I'm learning much with our new teacher and in the process of all the cuffuffle I've realised I want to focus my energies to still life, interiors and landscapes. I like these the best and since I'm not starting out my painting career at 20 I'm seeing a benefit to becoming really good at some things rather than ok at everything. So for now I'm putting figures and portraits aside and concentrating on what I love doing the most. Life is short!!

Some of the things I've done during the past 5 months that have whipped by since Christmas... I visited one of the oldest pharmacies in the world (opened in 1221); I saw my first river rat along the banks of the Arno after secretly thinking they might be an urban myth... they do exist; I learned to knit! (first project being a hotwater bottle cover, see pics); I moved from my much loved little apartment in Santo Spirito complete with stunning views to the south and right across the road from the Boboli Gardens to a BIG town-house out in the burbs with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen, dining room, loungeroom, basement AND garden (I sincerely thought I'd miss my little flat but I haven't looked back - goodbye 'I can't turn around without knocking anything over', hello 'I'm getting my morning walk just going to the kitchen for breakfast') - I'm minding the house of some aussie friends while they are on sabbatical in Australia for 5 months; I experienced the yearly easter event of the 'burning of the cart' which was just as exciting and spectacular as the first time I went; I found out that Italian doctors are Most Excellent and Extremely Nice and I learned that it's a great thing to have travel insurance; I did some gardening (weeding mainly but also mowing - if you can call cutting the grass by hand with secateurs mowing... I wasn't up to wrestling the whipper snipper into action); I had lots of baths!; I had Inga's mum and dad stay in one of my Spare Rooms while they were in Florence visiting Inga, during which time I joined them on a day trip to Greve in Chianti (heart of Tuscan wine country) as well as (my personal highlight) Carrara where Michelangelo used to get his marble and Viareggio where everyone goes to the beach from Florence in summer; I found a brilliant podcast called Artists Helping Artists which I listen to while I'm working at home or knitting and which is filling my mind with great ideas and possibilities for working as an artist in the future; I had 8 church friends over for a lively and abundant lunch which I had been wanting to do forever but didn't have space in my old place (took me 3 days to recover from the effort though!); I played tourist and joined a tour of the Vasari Corridor with a focus on the art of women in Florence - entirely fascinating with a terrific guide and we each got a book about women artists and the campaign that's happening (thanks to 2 american women) to get all their artworks out of the storage rooms of museums all over Florence...

Being in Italy for 2 and a half years has been amazingly wonderful. I have a feeling I won't fully appreciate all that I've learned or all that I've become until I'm looking back on it from Australia. Living in a place for some time really gives you a chance to let it become a part of you, to take major artistic wonders for granted like a local, to make life long friendships with people from all over the world and just to walk over the same cobblestones as centuries of outstanding artists that have gone before you.

At the same time there are some things that I'm really looking forward to about being back in Australia (aside from family and friends which goes without saying): gum trees, fresh air (Florence air quality is the worst in Italy), lorikeets and kookaburras, the salty sea air and beautiful beaches, my church and being back in my own house again.

I'm presuming this will be my last post until I'm back in oz. I do plan to take up blogging more regularly when I'm back (and hopefully in a more energetic state of health) with the particular focus on what I'm working on painting-wise. So do stay tuned! Thanks for sharing this journey with me. I leave you with some photos here and a lovely quote I found somewhere...

An artist's every thought and all his energy must
be bestowed upon his work, and such time as he has
to spare were best spent among the meadows and
hedgerows, where under clear skies he can breathe
fresh air, which will do him far more good and help
him better in his inspired calling.
Albert Toft
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